HC Deb 04 December 1946 vol 431 cc101-2W
118 and 119. Mr. Pritt

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) whether he will arrange that the new review to be undertaken of the case of L.A.C. Cymbalist be carried out by persons wholly independent of the authorities who have hitherto dealt with it; whether he has any explanation of the manner in which the previous reviews were carried out; and if he will express any regret thereon;

(2) How many R.A.F. or legal authorities in all have purported to review the case of L.A.C. Cymbalist up to date; how many persons were responsibly engaged in this work; whether any of those persons observed and reported the defects in the record; what action was taken on such reports; and whether any persons who failed to observe or report such defects are still engaged on the work of reviewing court-martial proceedings.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The authority charged by Parliament with the duty of reviewing R.A.F. court martial verdicts in cases such as that of Mr. Cymbalist is the Air Council. I have, therefore, no power to adopt the proposal made by the hon and learned Member for a review by independent persons, even if I desired to do so. Before making their decisions, however, the Air Council have the advice of the Judge Advocate-General Before he gave his advice in the case of Mr. Cymbalist the Judge Advocate-General had observed the omission in the record to which the hon. and learned Member has drawn attention. Having fully considered the effect of this omission the Judge Advocate-General came to the conclusion that the record was sufficient to enable a Service reviewing authority to form a reasonable impression of the accused's cross-examination and that since Mr. Cymbalist's evidence in chief and that of his witnesses were adequately recorded in the proceedings, he was not prejudiced by the omission and that there was a valid and sufficient record of the trial for all purposes. He has, however, suggested that I may wish to refer this point to the Law Officers of the Crown before the Air Council undertake the new review of the case which was promised last week by my hon. Friend the Under- secretary of State. I intend, accordingly, to consult the Law Officers. In view of these facts I hope the hon. and learned Member will agree that the points which he has raised in Question No. 119 do not arise.